The Great Big What do Women Want? Bike Blog Round Up

Ah, it's always great to start the week with yet another 'why don't women cycle?' handwringer (for some it's simply because their cargo bike got stolen) - and Meg Hillier kicked things off in fine style in the Telegraph by apparently implying that what women really want is a slow lane, which the paper followed up with another article stating that what we really need is somewhere to put our handbags. Helen Pidd countered that what Hillier was really talking about was normalising cycling and we can't disagre with that; Total Women's Cycling wondered if men might enjoy a bit of pootling too. Nor was the debate confined to the UK, with campaigns wondering where the women are in Long Beach and the Bike League appointing a new director to their Women Bike programme to close the gender gap in cycling. In the Netherlands a documentary is planned on how teaching immigrant women to cycle can change lives - while a global ride in solidarity with Afghan women cyclists puts our handbag woes in perspective. Meanwhile, men and women alike seemed to agree that Danny McAskill's latest video might be a bit of a throwback...

Not just women

African Americans are probably as bored of the handwringing as women are, with many of them responding to last week's article on why cycling rates are lower that pointing out that the infrastructure isn't being built in their neighbourhoods, among other things - in Kansas City they're trying to find out how to make bike share schemes more accessible to low income communities. Barb Chamberlain considers what happens as Americans get older and outlive their ability to drive - the Dutch, of course are already studying what would make older cyclists safer - while here in the UK Cycle BOOM are looking at how best to measure cycling's effect on the brain as part of their study into cycling in an ageing population.

What do politicians want?

If the UK is anything to go by, they don't want to let the evidence get in the way of the shiny law making from Jersey's helmet law to raising the HGV speed limit, even to Boris's proposed headphone ban - although at least he has launched a consultation on safer lorries for London, much to the horror of the Freight Transport Association (while in California a bill is in progress to make it easier to build protected bike lanes). They'd certainly like us to be stupid enough to think that cycling is safer in the UK than the Netherlands - after all, they can't run you over if your bike is still in the shed, but make sure that shed is not in your front garden. They'd like to spend £30bn burying cars in London (but in a tunnel, sadly, not an early grave) - even as cities in car-centric America start to tear freeways down in favour of more green space in California, plan a network of cycling 'interstates' using the space beneath the power grid in Texas, and plan trails alongside planned rail links in Florida. Of course, politicians everywhere can run the gamut - from a commendably bike-friendly lawmaker in Oregon to a road raging mayor in St. Louis - while even Ban Ki Moon takes a little time to promote cycling in Costa Rica.

What do businesses want?

There was trouble in two paradises this week, apparently, with Amsterdam businesses wanting to introduce a tax on bikes to pay for bike parking, while Copenhagen ones are apparently declaring war on them. Perhaps they need to read this handy summary of all the benefits cycling brings to local businesses - or even take a leaf out of Portland's book, where some businesses hold a rider appreciation day, or Tuscon's where a supermarket owner met with cyclists to gather ideas about how to serve them best. Here in the UK, bike shops at least will need to expand their base - they can't keep selling more and more expensive bikes to fewer and fewer customers - perhaps advocating for the conditions that bring about mass cycling might be the answer?

What do people want?

So what do people in general want to make them more likely to cycle? Cyclists in Toronto would definitely like some bollards to protect their new cycle track, while a bereaved father in Minnesota supports the protected bike lanes that might have saved his daughter. People in Lancaster would like a green route from Heysham, if Lancaster Dynamo's petition is anything to go by. New Cycling would like the city's latest Strategic Cycle Route to be more useful to people in Jesmond, while Cycle Sheffield wonders where the bike routes should go in the Lower Don Valley. Leeds Cyclists would prefer it if the council actually listened in their consultation over roundabouts that might be on a future superhighway route - while Car Sick Glasgow is surprised and pleased to discover that East Dunbartonshire actually have listened; their plans for a segregated cycle track are still a bit half baked, but they were quarter baked before (plans in Portland are also evolving). Ranty Highwayman is keen to ensure that, whatever happens, the beer will get through - the Dutch would definitely approve, being happy drink cyclers. While one person's dead new space is another's place for people (and children), America's green trails are becoming the new town squares. As a recent study compares attitudes to cycling in Chester and the Netherlands, it seems that in some cases even the Dutch have to be bribed to take up cycling to work.

What works (and what doesn't)

That would seem to put to bed the myth of some unique Dutch cycling culture - it's the environment, mostly, that delivers mass cycling. For instance while a planned development in Cambridge claims it will reduce car use, its wide junctions, two-stage crossings and shared paths are just examples of the same old car-centric thinking, while in Utrecht the city's Science Park has undone similar motor-centric thinking to bring cycling into its heart. In the US, Streetsblog considers how one day and pop up events can have a profound impact - and open streets events are evolving in Seattle while, after five years they may need a bit of freshening up in Portland. Design matters, too. Sharrows don't really do much, while even a few plastic posts improve a cycle lane in New Zealand - although they don't do much to keep out the parkers in Chicago - better to have a properly segregated bike lane. Properly designed pinch points can slow down cars without harming bikes while if you must put bike lanes in the door zone a painted buffer is needed to keep people from riding too near the cars (so why not just move the parking to the outside?) - while poorly designed bike lanes combined with over zealous enforcement could all but eliminate cycling in Tokyo.

That sporting legacy in full

Meanwhile, debate rumbles on about the legacy of sporting events, with David Hembrow pointing out they haven't done much to promote motoring in Assen, although it appears the Tour de France has at least brought an increase in bike tourism to Yorkshire, while the Olympic park gets a new wide, safe convenient but apparently secret walking and cycling route. With the UCI getting on board with cycle campaigning, the Bike Walk Alliance considers how to engage sports cyclists in campaigning too. And a different kind of legacy blooms in Porto Alegre where an impatient driver ploughed into a crowd of bikes at Critical Mass three years ago.

Number crunching

So after all that sporting legacy talk, what do the numbers tell us? Well, although car use continues to fall so too does bike use in the UK, while in the US it's rising everywhere, but especially among the over sixties - while those using bike share schemes radically cut car use. In Bristol driving is no longer the norm among the under 40s; it's a shame the older generation haven't got the message as Clifton's tank driving protestors join a long line of pro-car campaigners. And nor will politicians if traffic forecasts continue to ignore the falling trends for driving.

Self-driving cars

Perhaps the quickest way to eliminate the bike lash will be self-driving cars, coming to a city near you soon, although advocates may be missing the point about why people drive. Still, they will free people up to write wrong-headed letters to the paper and make films about naughty cyclists while cyclists needn't worry so much about punishment passes that drive cyclists onto the pavement or people texting at the wheel - especially now the police won't be seizing drivers' mobiles after every crash after all.

What we did on our holidays

It being the summer, there were plenty of reports from elsewhere. San Diego Bikeist is unimpressed by Washington's bike share bikes but loves the city's new bike lanes, and Delaware could alsp learn from Philadelphia and Seattle activists still make the pilgrimage to Portland. Madrid has done better at encouraging walking than cycling. Looking at how the Dutch do it could save so much time and effort in Ireland, while campaigners in the US are still being dazzled by Ben Hamilton-Baillie (perhaps they can keep him?). Meanwhile Cycle Stuff is taking a trip back to the past, and the days of cycle excursion trains.

And finally

It would be very, very, very wrong to laugh at this. I hope someone's lent him a bike.